Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Living With Adult ADHD

ADHD Treatment|Priorities Therapy|Achieve Results Today What is Adult ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The estimated percentage of adults living with ADHD has changed over time and its measurement varies, however, it is estimated that approximately 14 million people in the USA alone struggle with ADHD with only 1 in 5 seeking help. ADHD usually begins in childhood and continues into adulthood with symptoms characterized by inattention (lacking ability to maintain focus), hyperactivity (abnormally or extremely active and sometimes disruptive) and impulsiveness (acting without forethought). In some cases, ADHD is not diagnosed until the person is an adult.

Adults with ADHD may have trouble prioritizing, organizing, managing time, and maintaining a job. They may also have problems with relationships, self-esteem, and addiction. While hyperactivity sometimes decreases in adulthood, difficulty paying attention may continue or increase.

The word FOCUS is written in lights and is blurry
Photo by: Stefan Cosma

Symptoms of adult ADHD
Diagnosis of ADHD in adults can be difficult since there is no definitive medical test. Diagnosis involves gathering information from close relationships, filling out checklists, and medical evaluations to rule out other conditions. What makes it even more difficult, is that many adults with ADHD also have other mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, making the ADHD harder to identify.

Many adults with ADHD do not recognize they have it —they just know that everyday tasks can be challenging to complete. Adults with ADHD may have trouble prioritizing and focusing on the task at hand, leading to missed deadlines, forgotten meetings and often result in problems at work. Untreated, the resulting mental and physical problems can strain relationships and cause difficulties accomplishing simple tasks.
ADHD is typically diagnosed as one of three types, and symptoms can range from mild to severe.
  1. inattentive type,
  2. hyperactive/impulsive type, or
  3. combined type.
Inattentive type (ADD):
  • Lack of focus – careless errors, easily distracted, overlooks details, many unfinished tasks;
  • Disorganized – time management issues, messy work, difficulty tracking tasks and prioritizing which ones should be done first;
  • Procrastination – often the shiny new task wins the ADHD mind, leaving many routine, important tasks incomplete. Late arrival to important meetings, or poorly completed assignments can be common if they are considered boring;
  • Poor ability or thought to planning.
Hyperactive/impulsive type:
  • Hyper focus – highly focused on a single subject to the point of ignoring everything else around, including relationships;
  • Impulsivity - doing what feels good now is often chosen over looking ahead, choosing responsibly and considering the consequences;
  • Emotional rollercoaster - easily become bored, looking for excitement on a whim. Small frustrations can seem intolerable or bring on depression and mood swings;
  • Restless – desires to keep moving and doing new things leading to frustration when not satisfied. Difficulty waiting for their turn. Fidgets continually, can’t stay seated;
  • Insensitive and uncaring - talking over others, inattentiveness, and becoming easily bored can drain relationships.
Outcomes of these symptoms may include:
  • Poor self-image - problems experienced in childhood from lack of ability to concentrate in school, progress into work, and/or relationships are often viewed as personal failures;
  • Difficulty coping with stress may lead to anger or complete withdrawal;
  • Forgets to return phone calls, pay bills, keep appointments;
  • Changes employers often;
  • Few personal or work achievements;
  • Relationship issues, including divorce;
  • Trouble with the law;
  • Alcohol/other substance abuse;
  • Frequent car accidents or other accidents;
Some symptoms, such as outward hyperactivity, may decrease in adulthood however many adults still describe a consistent feeling of internal restlessness. The restlessness, coupled with impulsiveness can often lead to poor choices in terms of spending habits and executive level functioning.

Boys are diagnosed with ADHD more often than girls, however, by adulthood this ratio typically equalizes. Boys are more apt to display hyperactivity and impulsiveness which alert teachers and parents to a potential case of ADHD, whereas girls are more apt to present as the inattentive type. Many female adults with ADHD as children recall spending most of their time in class day dreaming, being tuned out and unable to focus on learning. Women are generally diagnosed later in life.
Women with ADHD are sometimes diagnosed with depression rather than ADHD. While depression can occur alongside ADHD, the symptoms can be misinterpreted as depression rather than the inattentive type of ADHD. Studies have shown that females are five times more likely than males to be diagnosed with depression and three times more likely to be treated for depression before their ADHD diagnosis.

Causes of ADHD
The exact cause of ADHD is still not clear, however, factors that may be involved in its development include:
  • ADHD tends to run in families.
  • Problems with the central nervous system during development
  • Chemical imbalance. Areas of the brain that control attention are less active.
  • Poor nutrition, infections, smoking, drinking, and substance abuse during pregnancy.
  • Damage to the frontal lobe of the brain
While ADHD cannot be prevented or cured, it can be understood, and managed effectively. Noticing the signs early, and working through an effective treatment and education plan, can help adults with ADHD manage their symptoms.

Adult ADHD treatment includes medications, psychological counseling (psychotherapy) and treatment for any mental health conditions that occur along with ADHD. Often a combination of medication and psychotherapy are the most effective. Therapy focused on these issues and ways to better monitor your behavior can be very helpful.
These treatments can relieve many symptoms of ADHD, but they don't cure it. It may take some time to determine what works best for you.
  1. Prescription medication:Many symptoms of ADHD can be managed with medication. Be sure to create a list of questions for your doctor along with some notes about your symptoms and medical history. Many doctors will prescribe stimulant and non-stimulant medications depending on the symptoms. Ask about the length of treatment, and possible side effects. Any side effects should be communicated back to your doctor. Do some research beforehand and discuss possible alternatives options if you would prefer not to take prescription medication. Don't hesitate to ask questions anytime you don't understand something.
  1. Counseling sessions:Psychotherapy (counseling) can help someone with ADHD learn better ways to handle their emotions and frustration. It is primarily focused on understanding and changing behavior patterns and commonly helps improve self-esteem. Counseling may also help family members better understand what the person with ADHD is up against and provide support to overcome.
Psychotherapy may help you:
  • Improve time management and organizational skills
  • Reduce impulsive behavior
  • Develop strategies for controlling your temper
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Develop better problem-solving skills
  • Improve relationships with family, co-workers and friends
Common psychotherapy for ADHD includes Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a structured form of counseling that teaches specific skills to manage behavior and change negative thinking patterns. It helps with management of life challenges, work issues, relationship problems, and can help address other mental health conditions, such as depression or substance abuse.
Often the ADHD CBT sessions can be coupled with marital counseling and family therapy that help loved one’s cope with the stress of living with someone who has ADHD and learn what they can do to help. Such counseling can improve communication and problem-solving skills.

In preparing for your appointment with your mental health provider or doctor it is beneficial to have thought about and to be prepared with the following information:
  • Past and current symptoms and the problems they've caused, such as trouble at work, or in relationships.
  • When did you first experience having problems focusing, paying attention or sitting still?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes you have had.
  • What are your sleep hours and patterns?
  • Any medications you take, including any vitamins, herbs or supplements, and the doses. Also include the amount of caffeine and alcohol you use, and whether you use recreational drugs.
  • Discuss any past evaluations and results of formal testing

Self-Help Strategies
Along with professional treatment, the following are strategies that can assist in combating ADHD symptoms:
  • In the evening, before bedtime - make a list of tasks that you plan to accomplish the next day;
  • Break down tasks into small manageable steps;
  • Record ideas or things you will need to remember on your phone.
  • Write reminder notes to yourself. Put them in places where you will see them;
  • Keep an appointment book or electronic calendar to track appointments and deadlines;
  • Set up a system to file and organize information. Use this system consistently;
  • Follow a consistent routine from day to day and keep items, such as your keys and your wallet, in the same place;
  • Ask for help.
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There is Hope
Adults with ADHD can find solutions to overcome the difficulties of their condition. Get organized, stick with plans, and finish what you start. It’s also important to learn how to manage stress, eat right, and regularly get enough sleep  so that your body is equipped to handle these challenges.  Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you prioritize and realize these outcomes instead of the ones associated with ADHD.   Please give us a call to find out more.

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